Generally speaking, gambling is placing something of value (often money) at risk on the outcome of an event that involves an element of chance and has the potential to yield a substantial prize. Gambling includes wagering on events such as lotteries, games of skill, horse races, dog races, dice, keno and bingo. The law defines gambling as “staking or risking something of value upon a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that the person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.” This definition does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the laws of contract such as sales and purchases of securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty, or life, health or accident insurance.

Problematic gambling is a complex issue, and the factors that lead to it vary. However, there are a few commonalities. These include the anticipation of an early large win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, a poor understanding of random events and use of escape coping. Problematic gamblers also face the highest suicide risk of any group – this is largely due to the effect that gambling has on the brain.

The good news is that there are many resources available for those suffering from a gambling addiction. Some of these include:

It’s important to understand why your loved one is gambling, as this can help you recognize when their behavior has crossed the line into addictive territory. Usually, people gamble for social reasons – they enjoy playing with their friends, for example – or for financial reasons, like thinking about what they could do with a big jackpot. Other reasons people gamble are for coping purposes, such as to forget their problems or to feel more self-confident.

Regardless of the reason, it’s crucial to set boundaries in managing your money and review bank and credit card statements to ensure that you’re not spending more than you can afford to lose. It’s also critical not to chase your losses – thinking that you’re due for a win or that you can ‘make back’ the money that you’ve lost is known as the gambler’s fallacy. It’s a very dangerous mindset and can easily spiral out of control. Instead, try to relax and remember that luck is a fickle thing. Ultimately, you will lose money gambling. However, the longer you play, the more likely you are to lose big. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by overspending. Set aside a fixed amount of entertainment funds and stick to it. Ultimately, what goes up must come down, and you’ll be better off in the long run.

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